Small Stories Philip Vachon
A Girl I See At A Party Heart racing like pot not like love Flutter but a bird on the ground skimming I rub a golden ashtray for luck On the edge of anything, airless
A Scary Thought Sometimes I have this thought. That I could just tap out. That I could put my fists down, duck under the ropes, and walk; I could hold hands with you if I had the gloves off. I have this horrifying vision in which we move up to Canada where we (gag,) teach. Where the leaves crisply fall to the ground around our nice little house and you say something like, “Ooh don’t forget to go to the store and get candy for the little kids!” And I smile and nod knowingly. And we dance around the subject of kids. Our beds have fucking bed skirts. Bed skirts. And yes, we have plural, because we got married and are “waiting for the right moment” to pop out a couple ‘a little squirts. And they’ll have fuckin’ beautiful faces, of couursseeeee. “Just like their mom and dad!” some piece of shit close personal friend of both of ours will say. I’ll bet she was bridesmaid at the wedding. We’ll be happy and fulfilled in some small fulfilling town with a great group of friends, we’ll even read books together to keep the marriage going. We’ll live an honest life. We will love fully and you’ll have a bunt cake recipe that is widely fucking known. I’ll read the goddamn newspaper every morning so I’m a well-informed citizen. We’ll all be so. well. informed. We’ll all be little fuckin’ Walter Kronkites running around in our jogging gear because, guess what? WE JOG. WE DON’T EAT RED MEAT. We, are so damn healthy I wouldn’t be surprised if we live to be in our 90s, cuddling each other in our old wrinkly arms and using each other’s love to guide us on to the next world.
I probably wouldn’t even regret it. Maybe once or twice when some hot little thing walks by, but what’s most messed up is that I will realize that there’s beauty, and there’s and attractiveness and you have just aged like a damn fine red wine. We’ll have picnics. Can you believe that shit? We’ll be like the sound of music but with only slightly less joyful singing. Sometimes I have a thought to fully love you. To drop the world and chase you. But that is a scary thought.
Realism And A Walk Romanticism and realism have always been pitted against one another. He realized in walking that day that this was one of the great tragedies humanity had perpetrated. The intellectuals had perpetrated. How could romanticism, and even surrealism, be divorced from our own realities? We live just as much in fantasy as we do in the tangible, if not more so. Who is to say that his daydreams don’t exist in his reality? In his opinion, any who do say so certainly know nothing about his reality and should promptly butt out. The light danced on already dancing leaves making for a shimmer like a lamplight through the windows of two trains crossing. The flashing seemingly random but in a pattern that you’re sure you’d be able to discover if you had just a moment more. But he didn’t have another moment, only this one long engrossing one. Like lucid dreaming he envisioned the characters of his late night dreaming and of his real life dreaming all mingling at an Upper West Side soiree, eating tea sandwiches and talking of revolutions in art and politics and not fearing any subject for the sake of taboo. His friends delighted in the company of the old oil baron who had recently acquired a railroad, but secretly was also the leader of the band of outlaws that had been robbing the very same trains! Ex-lovers of the past and romantic future chatted with commensurate giggles at his romantic quirks and faux pas. He was eager to work his way over to that side of the room. There was a girl across the street, waiting in mirror image for the walk signal. She was one of the few beauties he saw and immediately felt he could marry. Had he had a ring
he would have likely bent on a knee in the middle of Third Avenue, but alas he did not. He did not have the proposal band that he had picked out nervously weeks before, calling his mother and bringing his best friend. He hadn’t had the girl across the street’s eyes stuck in his mind the whole while, dreaming of their life together and all the roads they would now cross together. Never again crossing paths alone with eyes meeting and gazes bouncing like billiard balls. As his feet hit the pavement he glanced at her eyes hoping to see her reciprocating, and as their beams intersected a zap of electricity hit both of them. It was enough to make her slow her walk and as she continued, make an over the shoulder picture of this romance in a glance. For a moment she felt the future memories he had felt, but then, being in a hurry, glued her eyes to the sidewalk and continued listening to whatever love song had previously been playing in her headphones; something about you’re the one for me. He felt wise having lived out so many lives already, that lifelong romance already. In the mirrored surface of his elevator he felt his approaching elevation. The upward acceleration to counteract the eternal gravity fighting his bones. But strengthening his bones. Fortified. Because if he had lifted off into space, he would atrophy and be brittle for splashdown, needing a wheelchair and walking-to-the-end-ofthe-hallway goals. But he saw himself that astronaut nonetheless. He sidled into a shoulder-width stance, the doors dividing him symmetrically. He was a cowboy now. He eyed his gleaming opponent. When he squinted, his opponent did too. His fiercest face was no match for this foe. Feeling the cool grip of his pistol in its holster he took a quick glance out of the corner of his eye, as if to say, “Stand back, honey. Watch this.” He thought of his love. That
moment they shared on their own respective sidewalks, the love. He thought of his friends. The laughs and memories, and the soiree that was probably only now beginning to wind down, like a sobering from champagne. And then, BABANGNG! He sleekly put his pistol into its leather casing, and looked up smugly. When he saw that look in the otherâ€™s eyes however, he knew that heâ€™d been bested. He looked at his gut to see the wound slowly seeping through his t-shirt. Both of them fell to their knees. The elevator doors opened, and he was gone.
Weightless First day of flight school they sit you in a desk, but this. This deep blue day tilting to Earth is better than what I’d imagined, dreaming up and out of a window. I feel a goofy smile, like my momma always pointed out, bloom across my face. After being tied to the land, my blood feels like it’s come paddling up from under a cool June river. In the distance, I know I can’t quite see our farm, but I can see plenty of golden grains. And I guess I never noticed cause I never been up so high, but they really do sway like water. The sweat and heavy of Pop was nothing but weightless up here. This little white propeller plane is now gleaming as the sun falls under a cloud that looks like a floating mountain. Like a purple grey hunk of sky just floating there, with the beams all leaving trails that carry cloud along their paths. I think of a moment. Pop out back in the garage tinkering, me just back with the feedbag, Momma with a real savory smell wafting through the house. Pop walking in wiping his hands with a rag, Momma said something about her own personal mechanic and how even the Queen of England needs to wash her hands before supper. Pop lifted her up in the air and, as they spun, kissed her dirty face and all. This is before his back, and the slow cracking of a man unable to provide for the two he loved most in this world. I know that I have to come down now. I guess I always knew. The mountain is drifting on and an ember glow is taking the day. I think about Momma’s smile that cut through the heavy like these rays through the sky; I think of these wing tips gliding through, high above, pointing out at
horizons; I think of my father, spinning my mother, white skirt billowing out around her feet like some kind of Oklahoma angel; I think of how the memory lifts away from me just before she touches down, and how even though I can no longer see those bare feet touch land linoleum, they do. They have to. Thatâ€™s the point: the forgetting, and the believing you'll never come down.
Mona For a while now it’s been bubbling: a tap tap on the windows of my mind. I think it is too much metaphor mixing to explain, but the idea is, it’s there and it wants to be paid attention to. I never really liked the music the way my dad did. It always stressed me out. There was too much in too many places- or rather, a lot happening and to pinpoint a part the rest had to kind of fade into the background. Jazz is too much like my own thinking. That’s what makes me hate and love it, I guess. It’s some devil to me. Hopefully this’ll shake out the noise. This music pumping from my trumpet in waves that are so absolutely instinctual and raw that it I can sometimes feel the whole room as it echoes, like I’m breathing out nerve-endings. In case you were wondering where we are in the story, location-wise, we’re in the dark air of an unnamed jazz club downtown. I’m onstage playing. I’m in it tonight. Okay, it’s over now. Backstage, and then I’m off to the bar to grab my promised free drink. In the back a girl that was making eyes during the show is swaying to the music that has long since stopped playing now. I think I’m in her head. A drink goes down and she’s over here. I buy her a drink. I buy me a drink. We don’t have many words, but they sure do taste sweet on the tongue. We duck into the back, (taking girls backstage is one of the last truly old-school-cool moves), and she kisses my neck.
Then suddenly I hear it. That tapping or bubbling or maybe it’s jazz playing. I shake her arms off of my shoulders. “God dammit.” I walk out ice cold into the night, the girl’s voice out of focus with a questioning and pissed off tone. Why am I doing this? I only ask myself once before fully committing to my unconscious moves. I keep moving down the sidewalk. There’s a tempo played with shoes and pavement that matches the race of my thoughts. I’m in a sort of thicket of thinking, where I’m all mazed in and lost but the hedges are beautifully trimmed. I’m spiraling with thought; I can feel my brow all scrunched up. I look up briefly from the sidewalk to see a worried expression from a woman my mom’s age. I try to smile and reassure her I’m not another one of the youths that youth is wasted on. It doesn’t work. I’m spiraling and cycling through thoughts of Mona. Mona. It’s just an old film reel spread out, with the individual frames flashing. I can feel multiple streams of thought piling in behind each one. Mona crying last night. Mona and I in the public pool suspended and kissing. Mona brushing her hair. Mona coming over to talk to me that first day. My feet stop. The jazz stops. I look up from the concrete and walk slowly up the stoop. Banging the doorknocker my mind puts the pieces together. I now know why I’m here, but I don’t have the words now. The door opens. Mona. And the music comes back. I don’t love the music. I think of something to say. “You’re the only thing I love.”
written through google translate “Bonjour Mademoiselle,” he said confidently, the seven years of French class like an army behind him. “Bonjour,” she could already tell he was not native, but she liked that about him. She preemptively moved to avoid the coming miscommunication. “I speak some English,” she offered, “if it would— be easy.” She often felt as though the there was a certain romance in wordlessness. A certain mystique in allowing bodies to speak. It was as if they could be transported to Rousseau’s Natural State, “wandering with no industry through the wilderness, without speech, without home.” She wanted to connect like that. "Yes, please," he gave a nervous laugh that was more gasp for air anything. He had been on the wall jazz club for 20 minutes wondering if such a beautiful life existed to match this girl, this woman. It was even theorized when a man walked up to her and he saw his future amorphous die in the mist. The man was, in fact, going to the toilet, but the adrenaline that comes with its hypothetical loss was enough to propel this beauty. He used all his mind corrective French could offer. "Do you like music?" Stupid! Does she like music? Why not ask yourself if she likes the food next? "Like the kitchen?" Not literally! I have to stop telling my life. He hoped that the language could be the scapegoat for the crime of nervousness. She giggled. It was a flaming failure. She admired. "Yes, I do. Okay! Seat. Do you eh ... ehmm ... oh I do not know." Their eyes were laughing at each other and a sort of truce, the
two smiled silently leaving their faces tell their stories. His eyebrows told her all about his older brothers and his defensive mind. Her cheeks told her mother, who taught him to always be a gentleman with the ladies and the ladies call. Four eyes engaged in a whisper in the mind of another. "Do you dance?" He was not sure if he had said or had in the frenzy of the silent conversation. They were very close to what seemed like hours, with bodies that felt like eternity. Not an eternity of God, or even death, but release of eternity through the sale of a moment. The fearlessness of death. Hot and drunk they made their way outside. She kissed him. A glance. His forehead on hers. They danced in the street but were simply walk through. She spoke something to him in French. He spoke something to him in English. With another kiss, she rushed into a corner. He stood on the sidewalk as the river that young people have fallen in love real winds around him. It happened quickly. The group of young men seemed to swirl and sway like the cries of sea and an avalanche of words came but he could not decipher. There was a phrase echoing, he could not understand. Himself could not defend, he had no explanation. The men were taken to another American, he could not know. It was postponed first. Then punches. On a stone, he fell to his knees. His mind turned on its axis. His spine was suddenly a cosmic center of the planets orbiting body, but unfortunately separated. He could taste the sweet blood on his useless tongue. "Please, please, I do not understand!" When blood sprayed her little tongue, he made a beautiful haze. The boys fled at the sight. The woman returned with her roommate moved safely elsewhere. She saw her legs lying in the street first.
"Oh my god!" She spoke so fast in French, he would not understand anyway. "What happened?" He felt embarrassed. "Men. Fighting," was all he could moan before tiring. He felt his hair on his neck, and looking with her eyes blackened surely, witnessed an angel down. He licked the blood from his lips, but as she gently pressed against his, she left with red on them. Beauty. "What," it was very painful, but it felt somehow that it was a good omen for the future hushed. "Yes?" She was in shock. She took care of him tonight. His defeat had won his, and she knew it was true. He began to mumble, develops words. She leaned his ear to the warmth of his tongue. "What-what is your name?"
Blind Watches He'd gotten it for Christmas. Titanium backing and the genuine leather strap. His grandfather's thick southern drawl had emerged from his ten o'clock. "Gen-you-wine leather." As his mother explained the pulses of vibration that indicate half hours and hours (long indicated an hour, short a half hour. For instance, 3:30 would be: long, long, long, short). "Now you've got no excuse to be late to dinner!" his mother said, directed more to the room of extended family than him. He laughed distractedly, preoccupied with the feeling of the cool metal backing on the tips of his fingers. He tried it on. The holes seemed to be spaced just enough where he was forced to choose between its loose sliding around or shacklelike pinch. As many do, he chose the latter. In middle school the next day he realized that the events he'd previously known solely by order of occurrence corresponded directly with the vibrations, though he noted they were always slightly behind. The precise buzzes waited for no one. His mind felt free as he spoke on the phone with the girl he'd seemed to be speaking a lot on the phone with lately. Dinner was seven longs and a short; no need to ask her and stop the flow. She was the first he’d felt like this about. The first not to ask about his eyes, about what it’s like. He didn’t know what to do about her. Neither of them knew as the days of “like liking” turned into a whole new system; as their bodies turned. So they just talked and laughed and she made him forget. He got lost with her. The weeks and buzzes flew by. One night he laid in bed,
eyes open to the black that would've looked the same. He rubbed the depressed hoop on his wrist feeling the phantom clench of the watch. As he drifted he could sense its presence on the bedside table, each second that passed filling the air with potential energy until the critical limit was reached and it was released through vibration. He began to anticipate. His horizontal thoughts of the girl slowly rotated between her and it. Their conversations were nightly now but that night he'd felt something. His pace seemed to be increasing as the buzzes approached. For the first time, he hadn't felt lost in her words; those sounds sculpted in air by her lips and mouth. "How long do watch batteries last?" It'd been on his mind for a couple nights now. "I'm not sure. They last pretty long though, it's not going to die any time soon," his mother replied. He wasn't satisfied. After some research he'd discovered most lifespans are around four years, but it varied by watch function and model. With the abnormal functions of the blind watch there was no way to know. In his mind he saw himself missing a major deadline as the battery died in his sleep, the specifics of the major event dulled by the dreamhaze. In nightmares he would look down to find his wrist naked and as the watch eternally fell over the side of the quarry beside his house he was falling too. He wasn’t sleeping. Drifting through class he jerked awake to her eyes of concern. That night on the phone she finally asked him. “Are you okay? You’ve seemed… tired lately.” “I haven’t been sleeping a lot. I’ve just got a lot on my mind. I think a lot about batteries.” She was confused and he explained. She said she’d never been much of a watchwearing person. She didn’t like the feel. He said he did, and
then she said she worried about him not getting enough sleep, then he got defensive and she apologized but he thought it was pity like others’ and got angrier and she hung up crying. And he rubbed his eyes and the watch buzzed seven longs and a short but he stayed in his room nervously unlatching and re-latching the strap. At two longs he sat straight up and felt a buzzing in his chest. Engulfed in raw energy of desperation and sleep deprivation he snatched the watch from the bed and sleepily felt his way to the bookshelf by the front door. He grabbed the heaviest, which he would later discover to be Shakespeare’s complete works his mother had gotten his father for an anniversary. Holding the blunt force literature over his head, for a moment everything froze. For a second or an eternity, that volume stayed at the top of its arc, and then with the force of that anticipation he brought it down on the watch, crushing it between the leather-bound spine and the concrete of his front stoop. He felt the crunch of the watch face and glass grains shifting as he slowly began to pick up the book, but then decided to leave it. He sleeps now. He runs late and has to stop the flow, but he can’t really. He says, “Do you have the time?” with a polite grin. His phantom buzzes still come back sometimes in the dark and even sometimes when he’s with her. When that happens he squeezes her hand. She squeezes back. They talk about those days when they only spoke on the phone, about the watch. But he knows now. The watch never really comes off.
Life On A Submarine In line I’m fumbling with my ticket. My hands are knobs and angles now and they creak like my grandfather’s seemed to. Eleanor bypassed the line, replied to the stares with the number 90 she’s come to embrace with the accumulation of those years. She’s in the bus now and the cane leaning against the bus door begins to fall out of the corner of my eye while the impatient driver shuffles his feet. It falls and he tries to grab it and returns it to its spot with a reluctance that comes with our son’s generation, and with our daughter’s. The cold breath hanging in the air shows me he’s told me something into my bad ear, and though he’ll never know my left hemisphere is forever dulled for his freedoms because I’ll never tell him, I feel he should know. On some level he should know it and respect it. Now he’s motioning into the bus with his hands in my questioning face, and I’m going for the cane as Eleanor takes it from my hands’ trajectory and gives it to me. The movie begins but I don’t care to watch. “Why don’t you watch the movie? It’s about life on a submarine! Or are you just going to sit and think about your brother? That is too sad.” “Don’t make fun of me.” I can’t bring out more than that. I’m tired. I’m tired and I have seen the flag at halfmast out the window and I don’t know what for. I should know goddamn it. And now it’s a cemetery with one flying over and I can’t believe I don’t know why that damn flag has lost altitude today. I rack my brain for the substance of the numbered box I crossed out this morning next to our
bed but it escapes me. Things are always goddamn escaping me now. She’s right, though. It is too sad. But I will think of my brother if I please and I do. It’s funny; I’d said that childish phrase thousands of times to him. Summer buzz cuts had left my big ears and lumpy skull out in the sun and he’d let me have it. It was fair though; it was in good fun. That understanding came with growing up. And he was always the strong one. He was always so strong. Dad’s jaw never sat right on me the way it did him, but we both got Mom’s eyes. And now I’m weak. But I’d never thought he would be. In the moments of late night darkness I’d imagined him going with bullets and medals and a statue in our town. I don’t think anyone thinks they’ll die in a hospital bed. In that gown with his ass hanging out that I’d joked about. His laugh felt like a discharge of energy rather than a signal of it. Like rations to be dispensed. “Have you ever been on a submarine?” She puts her gloved hand on my elbow. “Yes.” “Really? What are they like? Are they crowded? I mean small?” “They’re full of very sophisticated technology. I was never stationed in one but I have toured them before.” “Interesting.” It’s queer how little we talk even though we’re together non-stop. Dianne from across the street would say it’s bad we don’t but I think Eleanor knows what I know. Or at least we’ve got the gist. For every unknown submarine tour I have she’s got something deeper in her that used to be mine. That is ours now. That’s what it is.
But I can still see the flags and I can still feel my brother. She’s got her own and I’ve got mine. And life on a submarine doesn’t interest me much.
About The Author Philip Vachon is a writer who is 19. He lives in New York. He goes to New York University. He likes to write, make music, draw, design products, start companies, and study music business.